Posted by: lettersfromrome | September 11, 2008

My new Swiss friends


Dear Mom,

September 11, 2008

Thursday, Twenty-Third Week of Ordinary Time


Theology school does not start for another three weeks or so, but this is the final week of orientation.  The schedule has been fairly busy, with Holy Mass in the morning followed by four and a half hours of Italian classes.  Then in the afternoon there are conferences about different aspects of life at the college.  For the next few weeks we will still have Italian classes for the first part of the day, but it will be nice to have a little more free time in the afternoons.



On Tuesday I got to hang out at the Swiss Guard Barracks, which was great.  The NAC has a very friendly relationship with the Swiss Guards because we allow them to come to our college and play on our soccer field and basketball court.



The guys there are great; for the most part they are all young, about twenty to twenty-five years old.  They all serve for a minimum of two years and some will serve longer then that.  All the guys I talked to there seemed to have a real genuine love for the Church.  They could be making a lot more money doing other things, but they choose to sacrifice their time and a lot of their freedom to live away from home to serve and protect the Holy Father.



I asked one of the guys how I could get one of those uniforms they wear for when I want to walk around the Vatican undisturbed.  All the uniforms are custom made right there in the barracks, and there are something like 150 separate pieces that go into making a single uniform.  Every Swiss Guard gets his own custom uniform, and if they serve for five years or more, then they get to keep it.  But if you want one of their swords, they run about 1,500 Euros. (Christmas present idea!!!)



The Swiss Guards are all tremendous guys, and I look forward to embarrassing them on the basketball court for the next few years.  I just hope they do not take it personally and not allow me in St. Peters anymore.



On Wednesday we had a banquet dinner at the Casa Santa Maria, about a half hour walk from the NAC.  It is where the American priests studying in Rome live.  There are currently about 75 priests living there, we got a tour and a talk about the history of the Casa from the Monsignor who is in charge of the house.  It used to be a convent for Dominican sisters and they have some beautiful chapels there.


It has been a busy week and things are going well.  I am trying my best with the language and relying heavily on the intercession of my guardian angel that when classes begin I will be able to learn the necessary theology.


Today is the 7th anniversary of 9/11.  It is hard to believe that it has been that long, and that I was a junior in high school back in 2001.  One of the priests on staff here is from Brooklyn and was working in a parish a few miles from the towers that morning.  He shared some very moving stories of what it was like to be a priest with all the ciaos that followed that terrible attack; and the strength and faith of many of the widows who lost their spouses as a result.  When I woke up this morning I read this prayer of the Holy Father from his visit to New York earlier this year.


O God of love, compassion, and healing,
look on us, people of many different faiths
and traditions,
who gather today at this site,
the scene of incredible violence and pain.

We ask you in your goodness
to give eternal light and peace
to all who died here—
the heroic first-responders:
our fire fighters, police officers,
emergency service workers, and
Port Authority personnel,
along with all the innocent men and women
who were victims of this tragedy
simply because their work or service
brought them here on September 11, 2001.

We ask you, in your compassion
to bring healing to those
who, because of their presence here that day,
suffer from injuries and illness.
Heal, too, the pain of still-grieving families
and all who lost loved ones in this tragedy.
Give them strength to continue their lives
with courage and hope.

We are mindful as well
of those who suffered death, injury, and loss
on the same day at the Pentagon and in
Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Our hearts are one with theirs
as our prayer embraces their pain and suffering.

God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world:
peace in the hearts of all men and women
and peace among the nations of the earth.
Turn to your way of love
those whose hearts and minds
are consumed with hatred.

God of understanding,
overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy,
we seek your light and guidance
as we confront such terrible events.
Grant that those whose lives were spared
may live so that the lives lost here
may not have been lost in vain.

Comfort and console us,
strengthen us in hope,
and give us the wisdom and courage
to work tirelessly for a world
where true peace and love reign
among nations and in the hearts of all.

–Pope Benedict XVI
Prayer at Ground Zero
New York, 20 April 2008


With Love from Rome,

Your Son


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